The way parents socialize their children’s negative emotional expressions provides an important context for the development of adequate emotion coping skills in childhood and can influence how the child will exhibit negative emotions in the future. There are six traditional emotion socialization approaches that have been established in previous literature (Eisenberg et al. 1996): problem solving, providing support, encouraging emotion expression, minimizing, punishing, and parent getting distressed. However, most studies have investigated how parents socialize the emotions of infants and young children, and none have explored these socialization strategies using open-ended interview question.
To address these limitations and to identify other strategies used with older children, parents of children 9 to 14 years of age were given an open-ended questionnaire with five different contextual situations that varied in terms of the child’s responsibility for what has occurred (e.g., child becomes ill and is disappointed or upset because he/she can’t go to a party versus child loses or breaks an expensive electronic item and then gets upset). Parents were the asked to respond to each question with how they would approach their child’s negative emotions. Our results suggest that parents continue to use the six traditional approaches with their older children, but also report using three new approaches: parent allows child to self-regulate, parent seeks explanation of situation, parent helps child understand or reframe the situation. These findings provide evidence that parents may adopt new strategies as children get older, and that the use of parental socialization strategies are context dependent.
Dr. Kathryn Kerns
The way parents socialize, or respond to, their children’s negative emotional expressions provide an important context for the development of adequate coping skills in childhood. Six traditional approaches have been highlighted as response strategies used by parents. However, these strategies have only been examined with closed response questionnaires filled out by parents of young children. The present study, which used an open-ended approach, expands on previous research by testing the six traditional approaches in parents with older children (ages 9-14 years), and by exploring whether parents use new emotion socialization strategies in different situations. Results suggest that parents continue to use the six traditional approaches with older children, while also using three new approaches, and the use of different strategies depended on context.
The authors of this presentation are members of the Kerns' Lab in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Their work focuses broadly on how and why children's relationships with their parents are related to their social and emotional development, with a focus on children 9-14 years old. Brittany, the first author, is a senior psychology student and Jennifer, the third author is a recent graduate of the program.